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Storefronts To Make Way For Walgreens In Elmont

Shopping center to be demolished after zoning board approval

Residents, business owners and customers were out in droves against it. More than 600 individual petitions were presented to the powers that be to prevent it…but it wasn’t enough.

Walgreens is coming to town.

The Town of Hempstead’s Zoning Board of Appeals recently approved a proposal to build a Walgreens Pharmacy in Elmont on the southwest corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Meacham Avenue, replacing a shopping center consisting of seven storefronts. The approval comes despite area concerns of traffic, safety and parking issues.

Clover Associates agreed to lease the site to the pharmacy giant last year. Calls to property owners Anthony and Jim Dalto were unreturned as of press time.

Walgreens officials submitted a plan for a 13,824-square-foot building to the Town of Hempstead in May 2011. This January, officials began making their rounds in the area near the 35-year-old property to inform residents about the potential development. Walgreens is expected to lease the property for 20 years.

Nearby businesses and workers are preparing to closeup shop, with heavy hearts and cloudy heads. Some, more than others, haven’t had the chance to make their mark in the area.

Top Food Mart owner Faheem “Mike” Khan has been at the forefront of the battle with Walgreens, attending town board meetings and bringing the petitions to local officials. The 14-year mainstay says he thinks it fell on deaf ears.

“We said a lot at the town board meetings but they don’t want to listen,” Khan said as he was helping a customer. “We suggested the option of putting Walgreens at the front of the parking lot so their store and our stores would bring in dual revenue. Sounds like a win-win to me.”

Khan is concerned where current patrons will flock to after the shopping center is gone.

“We’re open until midnight,” Khan affirmed. “No other conveinence store in this area is open that late. Westgate down near the Elmont library closes at 8 p.m. Where will everyone go?”

Beena Beauty originally sat across the street west of the shopping center, but was relocated to accommodate customer parking. Owner Beena Naqvi, who was recently released from the hospital because of chest pains, barely got her foot in the door of her new store before she was served with a town notice concerning the property purchase.

She bought the store in February.

“Three weeks after I handed over the key to my old store, I was handed a notice from the town,” Naqvi said somberly. “I moved from across the street and if the owner knew he was giving the shopping center to Walgreens, he should have told me.”

Naqvi is in the process of looking for a new location, expressing that she’s devastated and unsure where to turn.

“I don’t know what to do or where to go,” she said, visibly upset. “[Clover] didn’t say anything when I bought the property. I feel cheated. I’m beside myself these days. I’m trying to find places to go but all of them appear dead.”

Naqvi hopes that she and other business owners receive some type of compensation from Clover Associates to help pay for moving costs, as well as customer loss during closings. The landlord is required to provide tenants with a six-month notice before ending their contracts.

“We need something to help us with this drastic change,” Naqvi demanded.

Some businesses claimed they had no idea change was coming. Laura Gino of Long Island Jewelry Buyers, one of the stores sandwiched between the other doomed businesses, was caught off guard with the news.

“My head is spinning right now,” said Gino. “It’s shocking. I really don’t know what to think. Wow.”

Gino exclaimed that she received notices pertaining to the purchase, proposals or demolition of the property from Clover Associates, but was told to disregard them. Her first real inkling to activity was after being contacted by Three Village Times.

“I knew nothing of [the official ruling] until now,” Gino stated. “We are one of the storefronts but I never heard anything of this at all. I did get something in the mail maybe three or four months ago and when I called the landlord they said it had nothing to do with [our store] and that I got that in error. I questioned them further and they said nothing.”

Gino is unsure if there’s any legal action the businesses can take. “If they sold the lot, they sold the lot. I don’t think there’s anything we can do. We’ve been here quite a few years.”

Nationwide Insurance owner Matthew Moschitta just wants an explanation. The insurance group has been in the shopping center since it was built 1977.

“I’m split,” he said. “It’s hurts our business because we have to move. We are original tenants since the ’70s here. I’m not going to bash the owner because he can do whatever he wants with the property. You can’t fault the guy for that, but it hurts the small businesses in the area. The owner of the property has not called us back. He has not given any kind of…it’s a total lack of respect.”

Moschitta revealed that Nationwide is already in the process of moving.

“The town is feeding this story to Elmont that they want to rebuild and reface [Elmont] and help all the people that are here, but hurting small businesses doesn’t help anyone,” Moschitta explained. “The jobs that Walgreens is going to create will not replace the amount of people that work in this strip.”

The new Walgreens store would create 25 to 30 jobs, according to company officials.